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Chronic stress may cause Alzheimer's disease by damaging your brain

by , 08 November 2017
Chronic stress may cause Alzheimer's disease by damaging your brain
A body of research suggests a link between mid-life stress and a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease. Now, a new study published in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry shows the mechanism of how chronic stress physically damages your brain, potentially leading to Alzheimer's disease.

According to the scientists behind the study, neurons involved in chronic anxiety and fear “extensively overlap” in areas also tied to Alzheimer's disease. So what's classified as chronic stress and how can you reduce it to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease? Read on to find out.

This is how chronic stress damages your brain, potentially leading to Alzheimer’s disease…

The scientists behind the study pooled data from studies of lab animals along with brain scans of humans. They focused on chemicals triggered by anxiety and fear in three areas of the brain, namely the amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.
 
When subjected to chronic stress – defined as stress over long periods of time – there were similar patterns of abnormal brain activity.  These activities included an underactive PFC, which helps regulate you through thinking, and overactive amygdala, an area associated with emotional responses.
 
The study therefore suggests that you can reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease by reducing chronic stress by therapy, exercise or mindfulness training – a form of meditation.

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The relationship between chronic stress and Alzheimer’s disease isn’t anything new…

The relationship between chronic stress and Alzheimer’s disease was first identified in a landmark study by world-famous neurologist and depression research Dr Helen Mayberg over a decade ago. However, Dr Mayberg said that stress induced damage to the hippocampus and that PFC can be prevented or even reversed with exercise or anti-depressants – both of which have been found to improve the hippocampus.
 
“Looking to the future we need to do more work to determine whether interventions, such as exercise, mindfulness training and cognitive behavioural therapy, can not only reduce stress but decrease the risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders,” Mayberg said.
 
So if you want to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, you better get your stress levels under control!

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